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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: January ::
Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0123  Friday, 22 January 1999.

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Thu, 21 Jan 1999 12:18:19 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0116 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat

[2]     From:   John Jowett <
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        Date:   Friday, 22 Jan 1999 10:37:43 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0116 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Thu, 21 Jan 1999 12:18:19 -0500
Subject: 10.0116 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0116 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat

John Velz wrote:

>The pun in the title of Much Ado About Nothing depends on the th as
> t.  The play is much ado about Noting things.

I thought the pun was "No-Thing," a slang expression for female
genitalia.  Cf. Ham,III.ii.

John requires the audience to first see the play in order to get the
pun.  My interpretation seems calculated to drag them in.

Larry Weiss

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Jowett <
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Date:           Friday, 22 Jan 1999 10:37:43 GMT
Subject: 10.0116 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0116 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat

Richard Dutton writes:

"The Oxford edition seems to have precipitated the current preference
for 'Mote' (though I don't know why they used it in the Old-Spelling
Version ...)"

--              and Robin Hamilton comments:

"               I don't think the implications of this have yet been addressed."

As far as I am aware the Old-Spelling Oxford Shakespeare always
Modern-Spelling edition, the change is just that, a modernization, as
with "wracke" to "wreck".  The copy-text form is not, in Robin's terms,
challenged or emended.  In fact, "moth" is upheld, as a valid but
obsolete spelling of "mote".

The suggestion that "moth" is a misreading of "mote" seems to me
unlikely, if only because the form occurs in both the Folio and quartos
of several plays, and therefore the same mistake would have to have been
made by various different people.

To put the question of the fairy's name in perspective, the practice of
altering "moth" to "mote" elsewhere is as old as Shakespeare editing.
The Riverside edition, conservative in these matters, does so in no less
than five plays.  In MND itself, for example, Riverside prints "A mote
will turn the balance".  It seems clear that "moth" was a Shakespearian
spelling of "mote".  Modernizing editors therefore have an inescapable
responsibility to determine whether in a particular case copy-text
"moth" is more likely to represent the modern word "moth" or the modern
word "mote".  There is room for discussion and disagreement within that
context.

Whether we should be reading Shakespeare in old or modern spellings is
another question.

John Jowett,
The Shakespeare Institute,
Church Street, Stratford upon Avon,
Warks. CV37 6HP, UK.
 

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